Ohio knife laws are vague and the statutes lack definitions and clear language. This article will examine the Court decisions, or case law, that provide some of those definitions and brings more clarity to the code. After reading this article, even those not trained in the law will know what is legal and what is not, when owning and carrying knives in Ohio.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own a switchblade or gravity knife
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife as well as Balisong trainers
- It is legal to own a ballistic knife
- It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
- It is legal to own a Bowie knife
- It is legal to own a stiletto
What is Illegal to Own
- It is legal to own any type of knife in Ohio.
Limits on Carry
Ohio law does not restrict the concealed carry of any specific knife except for what it calls a “dangerous ordnance” which includes ballistic knives. The concealed carry statute simply makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Ohio Supreme Court said in State v. Anderson, that to convict a defendant of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the state must prove that the instrument is capable of inflicting death and that it is either designed or adapted for use as a weapon or that it is being carried as a weapon. Some knives that are very likely to be found to deadly weapons, and therefore illegal to conceal carry include:
- Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
- Balisong, or butterfly knives
- Gravity knives
The law does restrict both open and conceal carry of any dangerous weapon in a school zone or a Courthouse, but you may open carry any type of knife on your person or in your vehicle.
Definition of Deadly Weapon
Ohio Statute defines deadly weapon as any instrument, device, or thing that is capable of inflicting death, and designed or adapted for use as a weapon, or that is possessed, carried, or used as a weapon. In State v. Hall, Ms. Hall was convicted of aggravated menacing, or causing another to believe that she would harm them or their property, when she became involved in an altercation while armed with a steak knife. The jury found that a steak knife fit the definition of a deadly weapon, and the Ohio Court of Appeals agreed. In the case of a student who brought a pocketknife to school in the case of In re Carson, the Court found that the pocketknife, whose blade was one and a half to two inches long, was meant to be used as a weapon. It further found that the pocketknife was capable of causing a deadly wound, and thus was within the definition of a deadly weapon. Just a year before the 2007 Carson decision, in State v. Port, the Ohio Appellate Court found that a Winchester seven and one half inch pocketknife was a deadly weapon, because Mr. Port claimed to be carrying it for protection. The Court reasoned that since the definition of deadly weapon provides that any device carried or used as a weapon is a deadly weapon, the fact that Mr. Port carried the knife as a weapon made it a deadly weapon. In 2010, in the case of State v. Cattledge, the Ohio Appellate Court found that the following characteristics may support the finding that a folding knife is a deadly weapon:
- a blade that can easily be opened with one hand, such as with a switch, a spring-loaded blade, or a gravity blade capable of one-handed operation
- a blade that locks into position and cannot close without triggering the lock
- a blade that is serrated
- a blade tip that is sharp
- an additional design element on the blade, such as a hole, that aids in unfolding the knife with one hand
- the knife does not resemble an ordinary pocket knife
Mr. Cattledge’s knife was found to be a deadly weapon because it was seven inches long with a locking blade and button, which allowed the knife to be opened with one hand.
Not all knives in Ohio are considered deadly weapons. In 2010 in State v. Thompson, the Court of Appeals of Ohio found that Mr. Thompson’s knife was not a deadly weapon. In its decision, the Court said that when determining whether an instrument was a deadly weapon, the trial Court should consider several factors including who is carrying the devise, the circumstances under which it is being carried, including the time, place, and situation that the person is found carrying it, and the reason he or she claims to be carrying it. The Thompson Court recognized that many knives are useful tools for hunters, fisherman, and campers, and workers, and said that not all knives could be considered to be designed for use as a weapon.
Definitions of Various Types of Knives
Ohio Code § 2923.11, defines a ballistic knife as any knife that has a detachable blade, which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism. Neither the statues nor the case law define any other type of knife.
Definition of Concealed
In 1929, in Porello v. State, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that concealed “on or about his person” meant that the weapon was kept in close proximity so as to be convenient and within immediate reach. In State v. Pettit, in 1969 the Court was asked to define ‘concealed’ and decided used the definition given by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in Shipley v. State. The Shipley Court said that a weapon was concealed so situated as not to be discernible by ordinary observation by those near enough to see it if it were not concealed. It specified that absolute invisibility was not required, stating that ordinary observation did not extend to an unusually careful, thorough, or detailed search.
Conclusion on Ohio Knife Law
Ohio law allows for the ownership and open carry of any type of knife.
Conceal carry statutes in Ohio do not specify any type of knife, other than ballistic knives, that one may not conceal carry. Instead, it makes it illegal to conceal carry any deadly weapon. The Courts have called everything from a pocketknife to a steak knife a “deadly weapon”. The test however, is whether the instrument is deadly AND is made or modified to be a weapon or is being carried as one.
- ORC Ann. 2923.11 (2013)
- State v. Hall, 2008 Ohio 1405 (2008 Ohio App.)
- In re Carson, 2007 Ohio 5687 (2007 Ohio App.)
- State v. Port, 2006 Ohio 2783 (2006 Ohio App.)
- Porello v. State, 121 Ohio St. 280 (1929)
- State v. Pettit, 252 N.E.2d 325 (1969 Ohio App.)
- Shipley v. State, 220 A. 2d 585 (1966 Md. App.)
- State v. Anderson, 440 N.E.2d 814 (1981).
- State v. Cattledge, 2010 Ohio 4953, (2010 Ohio App.)
- State v. Thompson, 925 N.E.2d 188 (2010 Ohio App.)